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Avatar- A Science Fiction Movie Starring A Wheelchair User

December 21, 2009

I’ve just read that Avatar, the latest movie by director James Cameron, best known for directing Titanic, stars a wheelchair user named Jake Sully, who is able to walk again through his “avatar” – a remote-controlled Na’vi hybrid that allows him to bond with the indigenous tribe.

This tribe of aliens earned the movie  early nicknames like Dancing With Smurfs and Smurfahontas, as they have blue skin. They also have feline tails and are 10 feet tall- and, Hollywood being Hollywood- Jake Sully falls in love with one of them.

I’m thrilled to hear that such a famous director has made a Hollywood movie starring a wheelchair using character. I only wish he could have given the part to a DisAbled actor.

I won’t be going to see the movie, as I’m not particularly interested in science fiction, wheelchair users or not, but I hope it’s a hit. I think, if it is, it might just make people realise that disability can play a part in all kinds of storylines, and not just those that centre on disability and on ‘dealing’ with disability.

For those of you who are planning to see the movie, here’s some information you might find interesting:

It’s no secret that Cameron conceived Avatar before he made Titanic, but waited a decade for technology to catch-up with his vision.

Every aspect of the alien world Pandora – the plants, insects, mountains and clouds – is computer-generated, but looks photo-realistic.

Some geeky facts: The creation of Pandora required over a petabyte (1m gigabytes) of digital storage.

By comparison, it took 2,000 gigabytes to create and sink the Titanic – about 1/500th of the amount used for Avatar.

“The film espouses this love/hate relationship with technology,” says Cameron. “Obviously we use technology to tell this story that’s a celebration of nature, which is an irony in itself.

“It’s not that technology is bad, it’s not that technological civilization is bad, it’s just that we need to be in control of the technical process.

“We’re not going to be able to just rip our clothes off and run back into the wilderness – first of all, there’s not a whole lot of it left, secondly, that’s not going to work for eight billion people.

“So we’re going to have to think our way out of this, we’ll have to do it using technology and using science, but we’re also going to have to be very, very human about it.”

Cameron adds: “One of the themes of the film is symbolised by the fact that it begins and ends with the main character’s eyes opening – it’s about a change of perception, and about choices that are made once our perceptions change.”

Cameron has constructed his alien epic in 3D, which he sees as an important part of big screen spectacle.

He says “cinema has done very well compared to most businesses” during the economic downturn, but “we need something that kick-starts public enthusiasm for the cinema as an experience”.

“As people seem to be going down to smaller and smaller devices and watching movies on iPhones, we need to do something to reverse that trend or at least to balance it, so I’ve certainly set as my goal making the movie theatre back to the sacred experience it’s always been for me in my whole life, and 3D is part of that.”

Avatar opened across the UK on 17 December.

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